Note. This is the first in our Five Cs of Resilience Series. Please review them all.
CENTERING – First in a series on the Five Cs of Resilience (by Michael Neeper, OWLS staff)

Mindfulness. 

One of the newest “buzzwords” in our country.  It’s a simple concept, but very few people are able to explain mindfulness without confusing their audience in some way.  So, I am going to break it down for you:

Mindfulness is about being centered – being fully present in the moment, aware of your thoughts, and (this is very important) nonjudgmental (more on this below). When you look at the base core of mindfulness, it is focusing on one thing at that moment.

One mistake that has constantly been cited as the top reason people do not practice mindfulness or meditation is that they believe you have to “stop thinking” or “clear your mind.”  This misconception can be very frustrating to newcomers, and I fully understand why.

Here is a different take on those instructions:

YOU CAN NEVER, AND WILL NEVER, STOP YOUR BRAIN FROM THINKING.

Ever.

Your brain only has one job – to think and to think nonstop from the moment you are born until your last breath.  The main PR problem for mindfulness and meditation is that people assume that you have to stop thinking, and they are unable do so (rightfully so).  But being mindful is not about suppressing your thoughts, it’s about surpassing them*.

Take a moment — this moment — to listen to your surroundings. Listen now. What do you hear?  Just listen to the noise.  Or if you have a few moments, sit down, close your eyes and feel your breathing.  Notice how when you breathe in through your nose, it feels a bit cooler on your nostrils than when you breathe out.

Why is being nonjudgmental so important? Here is an example of how my mind distracts me during my mindfulness practices.  As I am sitting, following my breath, here are my thoughts:

I am relaxing well today…I am not always relaxed…Everyone should be relaxed…It would be good if everyone was relaxed while driving…I need to get my oil changed…I could do that at Walmart and then play in the toy aisle…I was really good at rock’ em sock ‘em robots…Mouse trap was a fun game…GALEBLOG2_MIND

This pattern of thought is not uncommon at all.  Your mind has one job and that is to think. And it likes to think about things that are related to what is happening.  I think goofy things and it happens often.  You will think about some goofy things as well.  But don’t judge yourself and don’t become frustrated; take a second to recognize that you have become distracted, forgive yourself and get back to your practice.

The essence of mindfulness is always returning to practice; it is more about RE-centering than centering…over and over and over.

Mindfulness helps you escape the stress from your past and the anxiety of your future, even if only for a moment.

Mindfulness offers many  benefits, including:

  • Stress and anxiety reduction
  • Increased focus
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Higher quality of life
  • Increase in working memory

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* Editor’s Note. The recent “Americanized” version of mindfulness is quite distinct from its original purpose in Buddhist spiritual practice. These excerpts below from  Arthur Deikman’s book “The Observing Self” (1982), capture some of the essence of this origin. Read our post about “McMindfulness” to learn more.

  • Mindfulness meditation establishes the distinction between the observer and the observed.
  • By realizing the transiency of all mind content, it brings a subsidence of desire for sensory emotional phenomena, and
  • Finally, an almost disappearance of mind content (primary purpose) – strengthening the Observer
  • The other benefits of mindfulness – calm, physical health, stress reduction – are relatively trivial and can lessen its effectiveness for its primary purpose.